So. An update. Let's see. For various reasons that we need not go into at this time, I am learning Italian and moving to Italy. I'm fairly sure this is a bloody stupid idea, but since I'm going along with it anyway, I might as well enjoy it. At least Italy seems to be well supplied with good bookshops? To date, I very much like Italian verbs, which conjugate prettily, and am significantly less fond of Italian nouns, which come with an unnecessarily extensive and confusing set of prepositions: apparently I'm quite happy to remember whether one uses, say, the dative or the ablative (as in Latin), but confronted by a host of pesky little 'a's and 'a + article's and 'in's I retreat in confusion.

The house to which I will eventually (deo volente) be moving has many attractive and desirable features, although these do not currently include wiring, plumbing or, in some areas, floors. Obviously, undertaking a major renovation of a property uninhabited for at least the last 50 years, in a country the language of which you do not currently speak, with absolutely no experience renovating anything, is a sensible and obvious course of action, and I cannot understand why more people don't do it.

I can't help noting that in the last year – a year in which I was supposed to finally settle down and stay in one place, I ended up at various points in Albania, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Panama, Peru, Turkey and the UK, plus miscellaneous airports*. Which does seem rather a lot, when I list it out like that. (And then of course I decided to move to Italy.) Perhaps it's time to accept that I'm just not cut out for this whole staying in one place thing? Possibly the fact I've averaged over my entire life somewhere between two and two and a half years per home might have been an earlier clue to this.

Luckily, even at that far distant point – doubtless considerably more far distant than the current builder's estimate – when the work now envisaged on the Italian house is complete, there will still be a number of areas that could use further work, which is a very good thing, because moving again would be a major pain (both to sell the property, given the less than brilliant state of the Italian property market, and because it will be the first time in 7 years all my possessions will be in one place, and the thought of packing them all up again is daunting even for me) and it hasn't escaped my notice that the moment part way through last year when I hung the final picture, completing the decoration of the last room in this apartment, was pretty much precisely the moment I started making serious plans to leave. I really, truly am abysmal at sticking in one place. (I'm not even going to pretend I actually intend to live permanently in Italy, as opposed to just using it as a base. At this point everyone, including me, would have to know I was lying.)

What else? My grandfather, to whom I was very close as he pretty much brought me up, died in August. Given his great age this was not, obviously, a surprise, although since his age was combined almost to the end with good health, largely unimpaired mind and remarkable strength I had got around to thinking him pretty much eternal. Cut for discussion of death )

Well, that was last year. What, I wonder, of the year ahead? I aim to post more (proper meta, I mean, not more self-involved rambling); hopefully also my Italian will improve, or I will find a phrasebook with helpful sentences such as 'Why are there five sets of plans of this property lodged with various government offices, all different from each other, and every single one inaccurate?' and 'But you were supposed to have finished strengthening this wall last week'. Oh, and that meme currently doing the rounds? The one that assumes you have so few books piled up around you that it's an easy task to figure out which one is nearest? Taking my best guess as to the nearest books, my sex life will be summed up either by "In the later Indo-Aryan languages, as in the later languages of western Europe, rhyme became a regular feature of verse" or "However, in 1874 the harvest in Bosnia and Herzegovina failed". Frankly, I find both these options unpropitious, especially the latter: I can only assume I read the wrong sort of books. So I'm unilaterally altering it from the first sentence of pg 45 of 'the nearest book' to 'the book selected at random from nearest bookcase', which gives me the altogether more attractive "Such reminiscences could include youthful liaisons with singing girls, or represent singing girls as part of the beautiful 'scenery' of the far-off land." Dear 2012: I expect singing girls.

* At one point I flew in transit through both Houston and Moscow. In one of these airports: I got off the plane; queued up to show my boarding card; queued up again (while being regaled by tannoy announcements anent not saying anything which might be considered inappropriate nor behaving in a suspicious manner, but immediately obeying all commands); was cross-questioned as to where I lived, what my job was, why and whence and whither I was travelling, and finger-printed; queued up again to pick up my cases; queued up yet again to check them back in; queued up to be given the world's most incompetent full body pat-down (seriously, I have no idea at all what they thought wouldn't be picked up by the regular metal-detector but would by their half-hearted and undertrained groping); queued up at the gate to present my boarding pass once more; and queued up to be lined up against one wall with my carry-on against the other wall for the benefit of a sniffer dog. At the other: I got off the plane, looked round the shops and wondered if I felt like having a cup of coffee. One of these two airports is located in the land of the free and home of the brave, but somehow I'm having trouble remembering which.
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quillori: detail from a modern chinese painting, showing two birds on a branch of bamboo (stock: bamboo birds)
( May. 10th, 2010 06:31 am)
If I claim the only reason I haven't posted for a while is because I was moving, will you believe me? Well, given I almost never get round to posting anything, probably not. (I made a New Year Resolution to post more often! And it's only May, so I'm obviously fulfilling it admirably!)

The new flat - rented, for once, rather than owned - is very nice, and more or less set up as I want it, barring various pieces of furniture that are on order. There are many floor to ceiling windows, and on each is a roller blind, of the sort that, in a wonder of modern engineering, rolls up effortlessly at a twitch of the cord. ............. Have I inserted a long enough pause for you to stop laughing and pick yourself up of the floor? So, in a more accurate description, there are many windows, and on each is a roller blind, of the sort that likes to stick determinedly part way up. The manufacturer's website has many pretty videos of blinds going up and down, and no mention that these videos are works of speculative fiction.1 Luckily my favourite walking stick comes in very handy for teasing them up the last little bit when they jam too high for me to reach.2

Cut )

1 I am not sure whether they should properly be categorised as SF, set in some future technological paradise, Utopian fiction, or perhaps an Alternate History, in which the company concerned designed something that actually worked before bringing it to the market. Or perhaps they are best understood as Fantasy, and the blinds are depicted operating by magic.

2 I bought the stick years ago at Sant Pere de Roda, mostly because I'd had such a pleasant day wandering around there I thought I should buy something from them beyond the rather good lunch. (If you ever happen to be there, I recommend the Gazpacho.) Since then I've used it not just for its intended purpose - presuming that to be hiking and not pilgrimaging, for which I obviously haven't used it at all - but also propped across the bath to hang my BC after rinsing my dive gear, and now for the blinds, so I've been amply rewarded for buying it. I still haven't used the little compass set in the top though, not because of my awesome sense of direction, but because I'm generally so hopelessly lost even a compass is not much use.
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Before launching our regular and meme-free schedule of things that hopefully aren't about me at all, an introductory set of things that are:

I hate being too hot and also do my best to avoid the sun: my natural habitat is skulking in the shade under a hat whingeing about the heat. Despite this, many of my favourite countries are in the topics. Perhaps this point could be summed up as: I like to make things difficult for myself.

I really cannot do multiple choice personality tests, at any rate not unless the available options include 'none of the above', 'it depends on what you mean', 'that's a false dichotomy' and, one of my personal favourites, 'it's more complicated than that'. Possibly this says all that needs to be said about my personality.

I can turn self-involved rambling to good purpose. Googling to check the correct technical term for something, I discovered my original point 3 was a pretty much perfect description of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Sadly, a quick check among those people immediately to hand suggests that explaining I have a rare and probably incurable circadian rhythm sleep disorder garners me no sympathy whatsoever. Apparently I remain undisciplined and lazy, even when I can produce documentary evidence that this is an unjust and harmful stereotype.

I compulsively play with punctuation. I can spend a happy and contented hour putting in and taking out commas and semicolons. While it is nice that I am so easily pleased, it does make prose composition somewhat slow.

I pretty much automatically play the Devil's advocate. Show me someone arguing something and my natural instinct is to look to the opposing view. I'll even do this to myself: any time I try to formulate a general principle, I immediately think of a host of exceptions. Now, I tend to think of this as a positive thing: there is most of the time at least something, however small, to be said for the other side in a debate, and I believe it worth saying, just as I believe a poor argument in the service of a good cause is still a poor argument, and indeed will not truly serve its cause in the long run. Unfortunately, given that I tend to automatically take the minority side in any debate, and given that it is natural to gravitate towards the people one largely agrees with, I am frequently to be found taking the side I do not, in fact, hold. I mean, I think I'm offering valid arguments, but not necessarily for the side I think is, overall and taking one thing with another, right. Most people being generally inclined to give to more weight to being on the right side than to being right on any given point, this is perhaps a pity. Have I said something about making things difficult for myself?

I am by circumstance and inclination a constant traveller. I will start calling anywhere I've slept for a few nights home, which does tend to confuse people. This isn't so much a deep and admirable commitment to studying other cultures as that I feel as comfortable slightly dislocated from my surroundings as most people do somewhere familiar. Few things make me happier than driving away from the airport somewhere I haven't been before, and as far as I'm concerned not having been somewhere before constitutes an entirely sufficient reason for going there. Homesickness is a concept I find deeply puzzling: I can miss people or specific things about a place (like the local cuisine or the number of good museums), but I can't imagine missing somewhere just because it's where I currently happen to live. The nearest I can come to imagining homesickness is that it must be like feeling for going back to one place what I feel for going anywhere else.

It is a matter of personal faith that it is not possible to have too many books. But then we all think that, yes?
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